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What tone will Trump take when he arrives in California?

President Trump greets Gov.-elect Gavin Newsom upon arrival at Beale Air Force Base on Nov. 17, 2018.
President Trump greets Gov.-elect Gavin Newsom upon arrival at Beale Air Force Base north of Sacramento on Nov. 17, 2018.
(Saul Loeb / AFP / Getty Images)

California is hardly a place President Trump planned to visit with 50 days left in this campaign season. After all, he lost the state in 2016 by almost 4.3 million votes, and few would dispute its role as the epicenter of the political and cultural resistance to his presidency.

Trump frequently responds in kind, chastising California leaders for the record on homelessness, immigration, election security and more.

It’s a toxic relationship that overshadows any presidential trip to the Golden State — especially one in the middle of multiple crises and only weeks before voters decide whether to extend Trump’s service or expel him from office.

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What will Trump say? How will Newsom respond?

Air Force One is scheduled to land Monday morning at McClellan Airfield, a former Air Force Base just outside Sacramento, for a presidential briefing on the fires that have burned more than 3 million acres in California since mid-August and killed at least 20 people.

The president was silent on the fires until Friday when he offered a brief shoutout on Twitter to firefighters and a reminder that he’s signed multiple emergency declarations to pave the way for federal assistance.

On Sunday, speaking to supporters in Nevada, he again said the issue underlying fires was “forest management.”

Monday’s brief visit will be sandwiched between Trump’s western swing of campaign events in Nevada and Arizona. The closest fire-impacted areas are at least 50 miles away from the airfield, and the president isn’t scheduled to leave the facility’s sterile confines.

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Gov. Gavin Newsom will be on hand to greet the president, their first face-to-face meeting since Trump toured fire damage shortly after Newsom was elected in 2018. A spokesman said their meeting will be private, thus ensuring no awkward moments in front of reporters of either sharp conflict or surprising consensus.

Of the two, the political pressure seems more squarely on Newsom — who steadfastly has refused to criticize Trump’s handling of the coronavirus pandemic. The Democratic governor’s allies were particularly irked by Newsom’s praise in April for a “promise made, promise kept” by Trump in providing COVID-19 testing supplies, an echo of the president’s slogan and quickly turned into an online video by Trump’s political team.

But Newsom has been far less complimentary of the president when it comes to the causes and ways to prevent California wildfires.

He has sharply criticized Trump’s insistence that raking forest floors will stop the fires. And standing in a burned-out community in Butte County on Friday, before Trump’s trip had been announced, Newsom all but mentioned the president by name in lashing out at the lack of federal climate change policy.

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“I’m a little bit exhausted that we have to continue to debate this issue,” said a visibly angry Newsom. “This is a climate damn emergency. This is real. And it is happening — this is the perfect storm — it is happening [in] unprecedented ways, year in and year out.”

And yet, Newsom seemed to stop short of a more specific criticism, noting that he spoke to Trump about the fires for about a half-hour on Friday.

National lightning round

— Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders won Nevada and led the field for the Democratic nomination. Now his progressive followers must decide: Will it be Joe Biden or Trump?

— Making empathy central to his campaign, Biden seeks a contrast with Trump.

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— Former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg is committing at least $100 million to help Biden’s presidential campaign in the crucial battleground state of Florida.

— A whistleblower’s claim that he was pressured to suppress intelligence about Russian election interference is among similar accounts by former Trump administration officials.

Vice President Mike Pence canceled plans to attend a Montana fundraiser after revelations the event’s hosts support the QAnon conspiracy theory.

AstraZeneca, which received U.S. funds to develop a COVID-19 vaccine, raised prices despite promises by Trump to keep drug costs in check.

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Newsom endorses Prop. 13 overhaul

Three days after he took the oath of office as governor, I asked Newsom what he thought about the effort to remove commercial properties from the tax limitations under Proposition 13 — an idea debated for years and one that was already being circulated for voter signatures as a potential 2020 ballot measure.

“My desire is to use this as an exercise in bringing the parties together to see if we can compromise on a more comprehensive tax package,” he said.

Whether any serious talks between labor and business groups ever happened is unclear. What is clear 20 months later is that voters will decide with Proposition 15 whether to allow more frequent tax assessments of commercial and industrial properties — likely to generate billions of dollars in new funding for local governments and schools.

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And Newsom is on board. On Friday, he endorsed Proposition 15, calling it “a fair, phased-in and long-overdue reform to state tax policy.” Business and agricultural industry groups quickly lashed out at the governor’s decision.

Today’s essential California politics

Discrimination against LGBTQ people in sex crime convictions will be outlawed under a new law signed by Newsom late Friday evening.

— The California Supreme Court has refused to overturn statewide directives limiting in-classroom instruction to slow the spread of COVID-19.

— Newsom signed a trio of laws last week intended to bolster struggling small businesses in California and encourage their owners to hire more workers, each of which received bipartisan support but only light scrutiny by the Legislature.

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— State and local health officials said they were troubled to learn that the California Highway Patrol allowed thousands of people to attend a worship event on Sept. 6 outside the state Capitol without following social distancing or mask guidelines.

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